Germany, France and Italy on Monday became the latest countries to suspend use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients
“Today’s decision is a purely precautionary measure,” Jens Spahn said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said his country would likewise suspend shots at least until Tuesday afternoon, when the European Union’s drug regulatory agency will weigh in on the vaccine. He said France hopes to resume using the formula soon.
Italy’s medicines regulator also announced a precautionary, temporary ban.
AstraZeneca said on its website that there have been 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the 27-country European Union and Britain. The drugmaker said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of clots.
The European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization have also said that the data does not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and that people should continue to be immunized.
In the U.S., which relies on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, AstraZeneca is expected to apply any day now for authorization.
Blood clots can travel through the body and cause heart attacks, strokes and deadly blockages in the lungs. AstraZeneca reported 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis, or a type of clot that often develops in the legs, and 22 instances of pulmonary embolisms, or clots in the lungs.
Denmark last week became the first country to temporarily halt use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in recent days to investigate. It said one person developed clots and died 10 days after receiving at least one dose. The other countries include Ireland, Thailand, the Netherlands, Norway, Iceland, Congo and Bulgaria.
Last week, Germany and France were among the nations that stuck by the shot, while Italy suspended only a specific batch of the vaccine. Britain is standing by AstraZeneca’s vaccine for now.
German authorities have encouraged anyone who feels increasingly ill more than four days after receiving the shot — for example, with persistent headaches or dot-shaped bruises — to seek medical attention.
Germany has received slightly over 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Spahn said about 1.6 million doses of the shot have so far been administered in the country.
Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Frances D’Emilio in Rome contributed to this report.
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